Longtime area musician Carl Thompson, best known as leader of the popular 1970s-era band, Midnite Express, is moving to Arizona.

A going away party in his honor is Sunday, June 23, from 2 to 5 p.m., at the West Union Events Center in West Union.

The palomino Band, Carl Thompson and Friends, will perform. In the line- up are former bandmates and regional favorites Mark Stumme and Erik Berg.
Admission is $8. Food will be available.

Carl Thompson and Midnite Express
Midnite Express came out of Decorah in the early 1970’s. The three-piece band was designed to give the group the ability to earn good money while fitting everything into one vehicle.

Band leader Carl Thompson said, “We wouldn’t play for less than $100 per person, pretty good money for those days.”

By keeping the band at three pieces, the rate was manageable for the bars and nightclubs where Midnite Express appeared.

The band featured all three members on vocals – Thompson on bass, Mark Stumme on lead guitar and Erik Berg on drums. Working day jobs and playing up to five nights a week, they went on to play for another 20 years. They performed at weddings, dances, private parties, lounges and ballrooms throughout Northern Iowa, Southern Minnesota and Southwest Wisconsin including such places as Matters, Nob Hill, The Inwood at Spillville, Red Fox in Waverly and Bennington’s Lounge in Clear Lake.

Carl Thompson began his musical career in 1958, playing lead guitar in a band named the RocknBops. He and several friends were playing at a high school sock hop in his hometown of Ridgeway when he was asked to join that band.
Forming another band, the Ernie Brevig Trio, the group hit the road playing gigs from Illinois to North Dakota to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Working with Chicago agent Ray Ahler, the band featured folk music sets and a classical piece or two.

Thompson switched to bass in the late ‘60s. He played an upright bass and had already decided that rock and roll was his thing. In the early ‘70s he decided to customize his bass. He bought a Fender Mustang for the neck, a Jazz Master for the body and added custom pickups and a fifth string; shortening the neck scale due to his short fingers.

Inspired by the song “Pretty Woman,” he was able to play it on his new bass without having to travel all over the neck for all the chord changes. He was ready for Midnite Express. To this day, that bass and that song are part of the band’s signature.

Although the band officially retired in 1994, they continue to get together for special events. The band members have an amazing ability to play almost continually during their performances, barely stopping between the songs. Deciding to play no songs newer than 1970 has made them a crowd pleaser.
According to Carl, the band always operated with the three-song rule.

“We would play similar songs in groups of three and folks who knew the band were comfortable that they would not have to rush off the floor after the first song because the next one would be in pretty much the same musical vein. If the floor was full, Mark would do a little lead riff, I’d turn to Erik and we’d move into another song,” he explained.

Midnite Express characterizes its repertoire as recognizable and danceable; and if someone brought a song to rehearsal that did not meet those to criteria, the band didn’t use it. The evening’s entertainment and set list was designed for the crowd, keeping them on the dance floor.

For their resiliency, talent and longevity, Midnite Express was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Music Association (IRRMA) Hall of Fame in 2011.